Saturday, July 3, 2010

Of Malfeasance and Rigid Regulations

In March of 2009 the Red River in Fargo, North Dakota threatened to wipe out the town, but the people were not about to be defeated. Working together as a team, they began filling sandbags and shoring up the river dikes and eventually proved victorious over the cresting river, saving their town. As they worked feverishly, filling and placing the sandbags, they were temporarily incautious about safety.

One must wonder what would have become of Fargo had the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) been on site to demand safe labor practices, such as "team lifting" and lumbar belts to prevent back injuries. Fortunately, there was no political opportunity in "fly-over" country, and the Obama administration ignored the entire situation.

The Gulf of Mexico oil spill is another matter entirely, however, and we are witnessing the devastating effects of rigid government regulations in a time of dire emergency. Now over seventy days into the spill, the federal government has proved to be more of a hindrance than a help. Speculations swirl as to the genuine cause of such seeming ineptitude; or malice.

Perhaps the most egregious example of idiocy is the fact that the Environmental Protection Agency will not relax the regulation - even temporarily - that limits the amount of oil in discharged water to 15 parts per million. The multitude of skimmers available to mitigate some of the damage are capable of gathering sea water, separating the oil from it and discharging the water back into the sea, but they are prevented from doing so because the discharged water will have more than 15 PPM.

In June, Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal commissioned a fleet of sixteen barges with vacuum pumps to suck crude oil from the Gulf waters. They were surprisingly effective, until the Coast Guard shut them down for 24 hours. The reason? So the Coast Guard could ensure that the barges carried the proper amount of fire extinguishers and life vests.

As the oil threatens the entire ecosystem of the region, Jindal begged for berms to be dredged in the Gulf to prevent the oil from reaching the shores, where it will cause even more damage. No, said the federal government, because dredging may "disturb" the ecosystem. Huh?

Then there is the incredible excuse for refusing offers of foreign help from people like the Dutch who have ships that would have been an enormous help in cleaning up the spill. Three days after the explosion that triggered this nightmare, the Dutch offered ships outfitted with oil-skimming booms, capable of processing 5 million gallons of water a day, removing 20,000 tons of oil and sludge.

The Obama administration and BP politely declined. Obama did not want to allow foreign ships to operate in U.S. waters because of the Jones Act, implemented in the 1920's to protect organized labor. Two days after Hurricane Katrina, President Bush temporarily suspended the Jones Act, but Obama still refuses. And yet, the media still crucifies the Bush response while virtually ignoring Obama's glaring incompetence.

Finally, there is the fact that Obama isn't even using all of our own resources to speed the clean up. The United States has at its disposal 2000 skimmer ships, only 20% of which have been sent to the Gulf. 400 skimmers have been deployed in the Gulf, while the remaining 1600 have been retained elsewhere in case of other spills. Now, finally, the Coast Guard and the EPA have relented and will allow the other ships to come, some 70 days late.

Does this sound like the administration has "done everything" in their power? It sounds more like the sacrificing of a vast portion of the country to gain political leverage by Obama. If this isn't criminal, I don't know what is.

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LD Jackson said...

Good post.

I was reading yesterday that a Taiwanese ship called the A Whale was being allowed to run a 5 mile sweep as a test. Those in charge wanted to make sure the water it was putting back into the Gulf had the proper quality. As if the water isn't already bad enough.

Wouldn't it be better to let these ships go ahead and do their jobs? At least, it would be better than what is happening now.

Woody said...

Welcome LD, and thank you.

You are correct, whatever level of oil in the water discharged by the skimmers will certainly be an improvement over the current levels. It is the equivalent of not taking a single step simply because walking there will take too long.

LD Jackson said...

I certainly do not understand the government's attitude or response to this oil spill. It makes no sense for them to sit on their hands when the problem is so real, right in front of them. But, this is what usually happens when big government is tasked with getting something accomplished.

ruffedge said...

This is a good post and sheds more light on the irresponsiblity and ineptitude of the current administration.

The statement concerning the inactivity of 80% of our skimmers in the event they are needed for another spill is ironic in light of the fact that it took the fed more than a month to respond to this one.

Face it, while the spill is an environmental,economic and health catastrophe for those that live and work and die in the gulf region, it's little more than a political opportunity for the Obama administration.